Roads losing out to public transport

The government has committed its entire infrastructure budget to improving public transport while road projects lack 27 billion kroner in funding

December 11th, 2012 8:48 pm| by admin
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Road infrastructure is suffering due to a lack of investment and political will, according to the opposition parties and car lobby groups.

Planned road projects costing a total of 27 billion kroner – mostly new motorways or motorway extensions – have been put on standby until funding becomes available, according to the transport minister, Henrik Dam Kristensen (Socialdemokraterne).

“Our infrastructure fund is more or less empty,” Kristensen told Jyllands-Posten newspaper. “That is why we have agreed not to start environmental impact studies for new projects as they may create unrealistic expectations.”

The infrastructure fund was created by parliament in 2009, and one third of it was supposed to be spent on road investment and the remaining two thirds on rail.

Despite this, the current government has decided to invest all of the available funds in rail instead of roads, leading opposition party Venstre (V) to accuse the government of failing to fulfil its obligations.

“The government hasn’t set aside a single krone for road projects next year and is instead focusing its attention solely on public transport,” V's traffic spokesperson, Kristian Pihl Lorentzen, told Jyllands-Posten. “The government is now going to be responsible for delaying promised road projects by four or more years.”

The car lobby group, FDM, also estimated that eight billion kroner a year was being wasted every year through lost working time due to the limited capacity of the nation's motorways.

“It is a very short-sighted savings because billions of kroner are wasted keeping cars in traffic jams,” FDM spokesperson Torben Lund Kudsk told Jyllands-Posten. “It’s both disheartening and worrying that they seem to be giving up on doing something about roads."

Some money will be returned to the infrastructure fund from projects that came in under budget – the fund was deliberately made 30 percent larger than it needed to be – but the government and opposition have different priorities regarding how this money should be spent.

The government wants to spend four billion kroner of the returned funds on building a replacement rail bridge over the Storstrøm sound between the islands of Falster and Zealand. The Storstrøm bridge is a vital link to the new rail connection between Germany and Copenhagen that will open once the Fehmarn Tunnel is built. Without the bridge, the entire tunnel project could be in jeopardy.

The opposition, on the other hand, wants to use the four billion kroner to move ahead with one of the delayed road projects, and instead add the financing of a new Storstrøm bridge to the cost of the Fehmarn tunnel.

Far-left party Enhedslisten, meanwhile, announced that it supported the government's decision to prioritise public transport.

“I want to use this opportunity to congratulate the transport minister and urge him to stay on course with his priorities,” spokesperson Per Clausen wrote on Facebook.

According to traffic expert Harry Lahrmann from Aalborg University, the focus on public transport makes sense given the government's aims to both increase the use of public transport and make it carbon-neutral by 2050.

“Given those two goals, it is not unusual that the money is being spent on public transport,” Lahrmann told Jyllands-Posten. “But it’s always up for discussion whether this is possible or the right thing to do.”

(All photos: Ella Navarro)
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